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New era for Liverpool’s National Oceanography Centre as a charity

The National Oceanography Centre (NOC), which has a site on the University of Liverpool campus, became a charity, independent from its embedding in government research body the Natural Environment Research Council. A trading subsidiary, NOC Innovations Ltd, has been established to undertake work of a more commercial nature.

The move will equip the NOC with the freedoms it needs to develop further as a world-class research institution, and to continue to be a trusted source of scientific advice, data and information, as it seeks to make sense of changing seas.

It will play a prominent role in international scientific collaborations and engagement in international bodies, such as the upcoming UN Decade of the Ocean. The NOC will continue to operate its two state-of-the-art research ships, RRS James Cook and RRS Discovery, and manage Europe’s largest fleet of robotic vehicles, including the now world famous sub Autosub Long Range, AKA Boaty McBoatface, on behalf of the whole UK marine science community.

The NOC’s Chief Executive, Ed Hill commented, “Today is the natural next step in the NOC’s development as one of the world’s leading and most innovative oceanographic research institutions. I am grateful to all who have worked so hard and supported and encouraged us on this journey.

“Independence means we will have greater freedom outside of the public sector to diversify our income and translate our intellectual property for public benefit. This will enable the NOC to sustain, develop and reinvest in its critical mass of oceanographic scientific and technical capabilities – crucial to enabling the UK science community as a whole to remain in the top tier of ocean research worldwide.”

The National Oceanography Centre’s Liverpool site was previously the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, specialising in tidal and sea level science. It hosts the National Tidal and Sea Level Facility, the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level and the British Oceanographic Data Centre. It was previously housed at the Bidston Observatory, Wirral until moving to the University of Liverpool campus in 2004.

The Liverpool site keeps alive the research carried out by the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, which has a long and diverse scientific tradition that started in 1845 when the first Liverpool Observatory was established to provide accurate navigation for shipping. Meteorological observations were also started to provide local forecasts for shipping. In the later 20th century, the work of the institute expanded into many areas of oceanographic research including long-term sea-level change, one result of which was recognition of the need for a barrier in the Thames.

Today the NOC site in Liverpool has around 120 staff and is involved in a wide range of oceanographic research, expanding its horizons and increasing knowledge across a range of disciplines in the oceanographic sciences. The NOC’s main site in Southampton houses around 540 research scientists and staff.

A new NOC Board of Trustees is now in place, chaired by John Hirst CBE, and will guide the NOC forwards on this exciting next phase of the organisation’s journey.